Nieuws - 7 oktober 2019

Work & Thesis: dream or nightmare?

What was Resource blogger Donatella Gasparro thinking when she decided to do her thesis and to work at the same time? A great idea in theory. But in practice... 'Maybe I have to re-think my strategy for doing all the things that I love doing'.

© Sven Menschel

As the end of Period 1 approaches, I slowly start anticipating relief. I really don’t know what I was thinking when a few months ago I decided to do my thesis and to work at the same time. In theory? A great idea. But in practice…
The plan was flawless. In principle, I function like that: I get bored, I need stimuli and lots of things going on to function properly and be productive, thus perfect, part-time I work, part-time I research and write my thesis, sounds great.

What I did not consider was that thesis, by nature, is a never-ending thought process. Interrupting that process every mid-day to open up other-stuff-related thoughts (in this case: work) is a big time and energy consuming switch. Every time I interrupt a flow, whether in my thesis writing or in my work-related activities, getting back to it requires double the effort. The whole thing becomes even more intense when work and thesis environments overlap. Because yes, I do not only work at WUR, I work for the same chair group where I do my thesis. That’s what they call dedication. Or being a bit selfless, you can choose..

I happen to work in a very cool course

Not normal
This escalated quite quickly in period 1 when the course which I assist in coordination started (and is still running). And you know why it’s hard to control and balance work and thesis life? Because I happen to work in a very cool course. Probably one of the most hectic, engaging, challenging, unpredictable ones you can find here. This is the third time I work in this course and, against all odds, it does not get easier to do it every time. That’s because it gets closer and closer to a two-month-long conference than to a 6 ECTS course. And, as every conference does, it is an organisational nightmare. Excursions, panel discussions, guests from everywhere, virtual reality session, escape room, policy role games in actual city halls, out-of-the-box group projects… There’s everything in it. My boss said, about the course she herself designed and coordinates: “It’s really not normal”.

It’s a lot of fun – and a lot of logistics, especially when student numbers increase at the current rate and we have to adapt very complex sessions to a class of 100+.

Time to rethink
I actually love my thesis topic, and I also love working for this crazy course and with its fantastic team, after all. But, as my thesis approaches its end (I realise while writing that I speak of it as if it has its own separate life...) and the period 1 slides into the last weeks, I feel ready to turn the page - and to re-think my strategy for doing all the things that I love doing.